WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Syria may well have used a chemical agent more lethal than chlorine gas in its attack Saturday in a rebel stronghold in Eastern Ghouta.
The French ambassador to the UN told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Monday that the victims’ symptoms pointed to the use of “a powerful neurotoxic agent, combined with chlorine to enhance its lethal effect.”
A French doctor, who reviewed videos of the victims, told Reuters that it looked like there had been a sarin attack, followed by a chlorine attack “used to conceal the use of sarin.”
US President Donald Trump charged that Syria’s close allies, Russia and Iran, were also responsible, while Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis noted that Russia had earlier assumed the role as “guarantor” of the removal of all of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Trump affirmed on Monday that he would be making “some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours.” One possibility is a “multinational military response,” as Reuters reported late in the day.
Meanwhile, Russia forcefully denied that Syria had used any chemical weapons at all. Moscow’s UN ambassador told the Security Council that Russian experts had visited the site of the alleged assault and found no evidence of a chemical attack.
He also told the Security Council that Russia had warned of “grave repercussions,” if Syria was attacked.
France has taken the lead among European countries in pressing for a response to Syrian actions, and President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Sunday with Trump.
The two leaders “strongly condemned the horrific chemical weapons attacks in Syria,” according to a White House summary, and they “agreed to exchange information” on the attacks and “coordinate a strong, joint response.”
The Iranian presence in Syria represents another dimension of the conflict. On Sunday night, Israeli forces struck Syria’s T-4 military base, which, according to the Israeli press, is used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
According to Israeli reports, 14 people were killed at T-4, including four Iranians.
Russian forces are also deployed to T-4—the same base that Trump attacked a year ago, as he responded to Syria’s use of sarin gas in Khan Shaykhun. The US hit the airfield from which the planes had flown that dropped the sarin on the town.
A major Israeli paper, Yedioth Ahronoth, also reported that “it is common knowledge” that the Iranians “supervise the Iraq-Syria border crossings they control from the T-4 base.”
That would be news to almost all Americans, as US officials have not acknowledged that Tehran controls any border crossings between Iraq and Syria.
Rather, Washington portrays the current Iraqi government as an effective counter to Iran’s efforts to build a land bridge to the Mediterranean.
It seems very likely that the Trump administration will take some sort of military action against Syria, but just what and when remains unclear.
Trump’s critics. including the editors of the Washington Post, have cautioned against “one-off punitive raids” that lack a strategic objective, suggesting that the administration needs to develop a comprehensive approach to the dangers posed by the Syrian regime and the atrocities it has committed.